Growing up and Growing Apart 

Words by: Dena Tissera 
Art by: Ella Porter

Dear _______, 

It’s been a long time since we last spoke; I’m not sorry about that. Our friendship is better stored as a memory, a pressed flower in an old book.

We don’t need to poke at its corpse, nor drag it along behind us while we pretend to enjoy updating each other on our lives. The last time we saw each other proved that the war-torn path to adulthood had changed us both, and that our friendship was collateral damage. I felt liberated, and I know you did too because I didn’t hear from you again for a while. 

The moment our paths began to diverge, I felt lonely. On my first day of university, after my first-ever tutorial, I walked through campus entirely alone, realising that my expectations had got the better of me. I had thought that I would be in party mode for four years, with an endless carousel of loveable misfits to befriend and dateable Chris Evans look-alikes spinning in front of me. I thought it would be easy to not need an old friend anymore. I was wrong. 

No one talks about that. I’m sure you felt lonely too, right? I feel like we have to hide our loneliness, especially when we’re young because there are too many expectations. Too many coming-of-age movies and boomers telling us that we should be having a ‘good’ time. Then we feel guilty when we’re not; left thinking there’s something wrong with us. 

Was loneliness the reason you kept telling me that I had changed? I’d heard that from you over and over again, well before we’d even left high school. It was only the 50,000th time I heard it when I realised that I was actually allowed to change. I could not avoid the cliché: I was growing up, and growing apart from you. It’s a misguided understanding of loyalty, to ask someone to never change. 

Sometimes I see your Insta stories and laugh because you swore you’d never go to that bar, or wear blue eyeshadow, or shop at thrift stores in rich suburbs—but you do all of that now. At first, I was pissed off. This pill was hard to swallow because you gave me so much shit for doing the same thing. Experimenting. When we’re young, trying on a new dress means trying on a new life. I know you deserve the chance to experiment too, even if you did give me shit for doing it myself. 

It was scary though, stepping out into the world alone without the old friend I’d always had beside me. Maybe that’s why we put off calling it quits on our friendship for so long. Call it the ‘Sunk Cost Fallacy’: Friendship Edition. We thought that because we had so much history together, we owed each other our future. This time, we were both wrong. 

I did spend some time being angry at you. I hated how you made everything into a competition I never remembered entering. How seeming like a nice person was more important than actually being a good one. I mean, I know I was a bitch to you, too. Sometimes, even now, the bad stuff about our friendship sticks out more than the good. 

I’m trying to remember that now, we’ve both matured almost beyond recognition. I see now that being on alternate paths was the best thing for us. I’m happy to be your old friend, your childhood friend, your check-in-with-every-six-months-not-every-week friend. It’s not a demotion 一it’s a privilege, because we clearly work best apart. 

You know what’s annoying about growing up, losing friends, and feeling lonely in your twenties? Putting yourself out there. That was what I had to do as our paths eventually splintered off. The ugly truth is that putting yourself out there is actually really hard, and it only pays off about 12% of the time. But that 12%? It’s pretty fucking magical. I got lucky. Going to university events alone and awkwardly making conversation with people in my tutorials eventually paid off. Even though I lost our friendship, I eventually found my people and I hope you found yours too. 

I want you to know that I don’t hold the keys to your identity, and you don’t hold the keys to mine. In your absence I felt empowered to get to build myself up from the ground, to acquaint myself with this new person I was becoming. I tried on new dresses and new lives. In doing so, strangers became friends, and loneliness became independence. 

I think I’m still processing the end of our friendship. Or rather, its evolution into memory. However, I must say thank you for your undeniable impact on who I am today. It has been a pleasure to grow up with you, and to grow apart from you. 

Best, 

Your old friend, your childhood friend, your check-in-with-every-six-months-not-every-week-friend.

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